Session 16

Saturday, June 5

10:30–12:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 2

Chair: Gioia Laura Iannilli

Anna Petersson & Mattias Kärrholm (Lund University, Sweden):

Environmental Nostalgia and Everyday Aesthetics

How we behave in daily life has an impact on environmental emergencies. In the decisions that we take every day, decisions that are important for the climate, the built environment has a vital but not so noticed part. The project Urban design and everyday life choices recognises the built environment as a co-producer of climate ethics. One of the project studies focuses on everyday choices regarding grocery shopping in the new city district Western Harbour in Malmö; an urban area close to the sea that was built to afford a sustainable and ecologically friendly way of life. In this study, six residents’ experiences of and thoughts about shopping routes and routines have been investigated by using the method of semi-structured qualitative interviews supported by participant produced photographs and captions. Three subject areas have been identified in the collected material and will be examined in this presentation: 1) The branding of the residential area as ecologically sustainable is an ongoing and changing process of resemiotization (cf. Remm, 2016; Barthes, 1957). This affected the residents’ experiences of and visions for their neighbourhood, causing them to reposition themselves within the changing context; 2) Everyday consumer choices were placed in a narrative that fitted with the respondents’ overall idea of what respectable grocery shopping is and should be (cf. Skeggs, 1997). Commodities were placed in a social and cultural perspective, where ethical consumer choices could be seen as symbolically good (Bourdieu, 1979; Appadurai 1986), guiding the informants to take on the role of ascetic grocery shoppers (cf. Brighenti & Kärrholm, 2018); and 3) The territorialisation of shopping routes and routines were affected by aesthetic values linked to nature, beauty, playfulness and surprise, that added positive experiences to the respondents’ everyday life (cf. Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Brighenti & Kärrholm, 2018). The built environment in combination with the (bad) weather, the price and quality of goods, unclear information of product origin, as well as picky companion animals, also affected the informants’ possibilities to make ethical consumer choices (cf. Brembech, Hansson & Vayre, 2015). By claiming the term “environmental nostalgia”, which encompasses a search for home, identity, authenticity and reimagination (cf. Chrostowska, 2010; Boym, 2001), the presentation will move towards a discussion where aesthetic experiences and the framing of nature within the built culture are recognised as important parts of sustainable urban environments (cf. Brady, Brook & Prior, 2018).

Sandra Kopljar & Paulina Prieto de la Fuente (Lund University, Sweden):

The Sustainability Reward – What Does it Take to Undo Climate Ethical Decisions in Everyday Life?

Today many of us strive to live as climate-friendly lives as possible, we stay informed with the ways that we can contribute and then try to alter our everyday habits accordingly. We often have an idea of what the best choice of transportation would be or that we should reduce our consumption in order to decrease our personal carbon footprint. Even with the best intentions our everyday-related decisions sometimes develop differently from the way they were planned. What is it, in terms of aesthetic configurations, that is needed in order to uphold a sustainable lifestyle and what are possible obstacles? How do these configurations materialize themselves and affect our appreciation of the built environment? Focusing on everyday life and the built environment this paper addresses what happens when our intentions are not aligned with our actions, and aims to examine when and where that happens through a mapping study carried out in a suburban area in the outskirts of Lund, Sweden. Respondents were asked to record their daily transportation routes in preprinted maps during a week, and also to answer a questionnaire with questions about the relation between the built environment and daily transportation. The study shows that things get in the way. There might be disruptions in railway traffic that might lead us to choose the car instead of the train. It may be difficult to synchronize different modes of transportation, or we are steered by personal economic motives. Many times, it is the built environment that will not meet the requirements for our desired lifestyle change. Perhaps there is no bike lane and the road is too unsafe to use. It might also be an aesthetic preference that tilts the scales, perhaps one activity offers a nice environment whilst another one presents an undesirable context.

Šárka Lojdová:

Why is One Blind to the Climate Crisis?

Sir David Attenborough opens his documentary Life on Our Planet in Chernobyl, in the place of the nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. His message is that nature can regenerate, and he aims to encourage people to protect the environment and avert the clime crisis. Chernobyl disaster has undeniably a symbolic value. For Sir Attenborough, it illustrates recreative powers of nature, for me – as I aim to show – a disproportion in human perception. On the one hand, people are terrified and shocked when facing natural catastrophes (earthquakes, fires, and nuclear disasters in particular). On the other hand, they (or a significant part) seem intact face a global climate crisis. In my presentation, I intend to explain why it might be so. I will base this explanation on Arthur C. Danto’s philosophy of history. Danto – mostly known as a philosopher of art – introduced his thesis that a meaning of a particular (historical) event is not accessible for its contemporaries since they cannot connect it with subsequent happenings in his Analytical Philosophy of History. Our historical knowledge is thus retrospective in character in that the meaning of it changes concerning future events.

Consequently, we can distinguish between two modes of knowledge: direct experience with a particular occurrence and historical (narrative) knowledge. Of course, the climate crisis is not a historical event of the type as the battle of Jena. However, these two kinds of knowledge can explain why we feel emotionally moved by the earthquake but not necessarily by the prediction of global warming. Although scientists were able to model the consequences of the deflation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the 1970 s (Rich, Losing Earth, 2019), politicians were unwilling to act because the damage was not visible. My point is that even if we identify global warming as a cause of –for example– fires in Australia, this identification is possible only due to narrative knowledge, i.e., in retrospect. In contrast, fires themselves are the object of direct knowledge or perception, and therefore they seem to be more real. The same is with the Chernobyl disaster (Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth, 2019). Although the nuclear catastrophe gave rise to fewer victims than global warming caused by our carbon dioxide production, the meaning of climate crisis is accessible only through retrospective reading. The prediction of the 1970 s is a reality of our time: its meaning becomes visible.